1. Despite being known as a brilliant commander, his first battle was an embarrassment.
Frederick saw his first action as the king on 10 April 1740 in the Battle of Mollwitz. Although he caught the Austrian army offguard, he made several tactical mistakes, which allowed Austrians to inflict serious casualties on Prussian army. Seeing the dire situation, many of his generals advised Frederick to leave the battlefield, thinking it’s lost. Frederick listened to their advice and fled. However, his army managed to come out victorious which put Frederick in an awkward position. Learning from his mistakes in this battle, Frederick won several battles until the war ended in 1742. Frederick later referred to this event by saying; “Mollwitz was my school.”
2. He is the first Prussian king to use the title “King of Prussia” instead of “King in Prussia”.
Prussian kings had been using the title “King in Prussia” since the kingdom’s formation in 1701. That was due to an agreement between the Prussian King and Holy Roman Emperor, which allowed the Prussian king to be a king only in Prussia, which was not included in the Empire’s territories. That way, Prussians got to name themselves “king”, without hurting the Emperor’s authority within the Empire. This changed, however, in 1772 when Prussia, along with Austria and Russia, agreed to the partition of Poland. Prussia annexed the part of Prussian region which had been under Polish occupation for centuries. Frederick , seeing that now he rules over the entire region of Prussia and is in no way inferior to Austrians in terms of strength, changed his title to “the King of Prussia.”
3. His famous palace, Sanssouci, was one of the intellectual centers of Europe.
After the construction of Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam in 1747, Frederick started spending his free time there. During his time there, Frederick hosted many intellectuals and artists in his palace. Sanssouci’s guests included famous musicians such as Johann Sebastian Bach and prominent philosophers of the time such as Voltaire, La Mettrie and many others. Frederick himself was known to be quite interested in arts and literature, he was also a brilliant composer. He was an admirer of the French language, he spoke French in his court and wrote his works in French.
4. He wrote the famous book, “Anti-Machiavel”.
Frederick liked writing as much as he liked reading. One of his writings, however, attracted much more popularity than the others. Right before his succession to the throne, Frederick wrote his famous “Anti-Machiavel”, in which he criticized Niccolo Machiavelli’s portrayal of a fallacious, malevolent ruler as the ideal ruler. Frederick sent his work to his friend Voltaire, wanting to hear his comments on his work. Voltaire liked it so much that he published it in The Hague without Frederick’s knowledge. The book quickly rose into popularity and even today, it is still one of the most known refutations of Machiavelli’s “The Prince”.
5. He was a quite popular figure in the United States.
Even though Prussia was allied with Great Britain during the Seven Years’ War, Frederick hold a neutral stance in the American Revolution. One of his generals, Baron von Steuben, served as a very important inspector general in the Continental Army. Moreover, Frederick allowed the United States to purchase weapons from Prussian weapon producers. Later in the war Frederick took some measures against the USA such as preventing volunteers from his country from going to America to join the US, in order not to anger his British allies. Frederick recognized USA right after the Treaty of Paris. His brother Prince Henry was even considered as a candidate for President or King of the US but an official offer was never made.